A Blessed New Year

Blessed New YearPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church    A Blessed New Year                                                        To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

“Happy” New Year!  Romans 12:10-15

The greeting is universal and is said every year… but this is certainly not the best greeting for a Christian to say especially when we look at the word “Happy”:

Hap-py  –adjective, -pi·er, -pi·est.    characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind. 2. favored by fortune; fortunate or luck.

For many in our city and in our church, this new  year has begun in the most unhappy of ways.  There is no pleasure, no happy mood or happy frame of mind.  Some do not feel    favored by fortune, fortunate or lucky.  This year has begun with the loss of a job, a broken relationship, the loss of a loved one, discouraging news, or some other deep sense of loss.  As Christians we need to be aware of those who are crushed in spirit.  For many this new  year rings in with a thud.  God’s word tells us to “be devoted to one another in love and honor one another above ourselves…to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”  To do this we must greet people with more than a “Happy New Year!” or quick unconcerned “how ‘ya doing”.  Do we really care how the other is feeling?  Jesus does.

“Blessed” New Year!  Matthew 5:1-12, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Have a ‘blessed’ New Year” is a better greeting for all who are in the faith and “God bless you” rather than “how ‘ya doin?”  The word “blessed” in the Greek translates to our English word “happy” but it is richer, deeper and denotes God’s approval.  Where happiness is circumstantial, being blessed is God’s hand of grace upon one’s life.  In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount He makes this distinction.  He begins each line with a state of being and rewards it with a promise.  The promise is only available to those who commit themselves to the     Lordship of Christ in faith.  They are blessed for this reason alone.  They can look beyond unhappy circumstances and see the promise of a gracious God who will deliver what He has promised to His faithful children:

State of Being:                                                                Promise: 

Poor In Spirit: broken hearted, discouraged, sad.         Have a home in Heaven

He promises believers Heaven where there are no more tears (Revelation 21:4).

Those Mourning: Crying over great loss, grieving.        Will be Comforted by God

The God of comfort promises to be with His own (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

We, therefore, can later comfort others with the comfort that we have received.

 The Meek: gentle, submissive (negative to the worldly).   Will inherit the earth

Man sees meekness as weakness but God sees it as strength.  The meek can see their need for God and submit to Him readily.  The promise of inheriting the earth is in relation to reigning and ruling with Christ when He returns in glory!   2 Timothy 2:12

Hunger & Thirst for Righteousness:  Passionate for God’s will       Will be filled!

Man sees righteousness as weakness and holiness as humdrum, but these things are the will of God in our lives.  Jesus said His food was to do the will of the one who sent Him (John 4:34).  God fills up our soul as we do His will.

The Merciful:   Those who show care, concern and compassion     Will receive Mercy

The Pure of Heart:  Those who want to please God and do His will.    Will See God

The Peacemakers:  Those who bring peace.                    Will be known as  God’s sons

Those who suffer:  Persecuted for standing up for God.    Will be Rewarded with Heaven    

Be-Attitudes  Matthew 5:13-16

The attitudes above are what we as Christians are to be.  We are to be brokenhearted for the things that break God’s heart, and conscious of our own sin and broken by them.  We should be submissive to His will and hunger and thirst for what pleases Him. We are to be merciful, pure, peace loving, and suffer if we must to keep these attitudes and live them out in a world full of hate, bitterness, self-centeredness and pain.  God’s promises for us who put on these attitudes is to be blessed with the hope of His promises and a blessing to those who know us. 

To be “Blessed” of God is to be known by Him, touched by Him and responsive to Him and to reciprocate His love for you unto others.

New Year’s Resolutions?  Matthew 6:33

We as Christians will not always be “happy” in the circumstantial sense of the word.  Life will happen: the good, the bad and the ugly.  We cannot change circumstances but we can always change our attitude.  Does your attitude reflect what Jesus calls “Blessed?”  Does your attitude reflect the grace, mercy, and righteousness that God expects from His children?  Are you full of His promises or full of yourself? 

No matter how this year has begun for you, Jesus offers a blessing to any who call upon Him.  He wants to change our hearts and not necessarily our circumstances.  There is no better New Year’s resolution than your resolve to follow Christ.

Insanity Proverbs 12:15, 25:28

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Let ‘s all stop being insane!  Only walking with Jesus can create a new heart in us. Only He can make all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this New Year let us truly give God control of our lives (all of it) and see what good He can do with a heart that truly belongs to Him.  Let us finally listen to the advice of the one who made us and stop doing what seems right to us (Proverbs 12:15).   Let us not be like a city with broken down walls (or a border for that matter).  We all lack self control (Proverbs 25:28) so let God take the wheel of your life…Put on the attitude of His passenger and have a “blessed New year”.  

Jesus Not Jive (The Heart of Christmas #5)

Mary&JesusNewPastor Barry/ The Gathering:  Jesus Not Jive (The Heart of Christmas Series/ #5 Conclusion)To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Sermon Springboard:  Mary Did You Know ? (lyrics by Mark Lowry and music by Buddy Greene). Originally recorded by Christian recording artist Michael English on his self-titled debut solo album in 1991 (English and Lowry were both members of the Gaither Vocal Band at the time). 

What Did Mary Know? Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-19, Matthew 1:18-21

The song, Mary Did You Know? Was first written as a poem by Mark Lowry after talking with his mother about what Mary might not have known about her baby, Jesus.  At that time he did not know that the words he wrote would one day become the greatest contemporary Christmas song of our modern day.  As humans we never really know very much. The Bible tells us that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), but although we may bear the visible likeness of the invisible God we certainly lack His omni-qualities. God is omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all knowing). We are none of these things. We simply develop gradually over a period of time.  We start life as a simple and dependent little baby, grow into childhood, burst into puberty and develop into physical adults and hopefully also mature emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well. Of course that is largely dependent upon who it is that raised us and the choices we make in life.  God chose Mary and Joseph to raise Jesus, but as Jesus himself would later tell them both (at age twelve), God was His father and He was all about His father’s business (Luke 2:49).

Mary most certainly did not know that Jesus would one day walk on water, raise the dead or die on a cross for your, my and her sins.  She only knew for sure that 1.) an angel appeared to her (Luke 1:28) and also to Joseph (Matthew 2:20-21) ,      2.) that she was a virgin (Luke 1:34) and that she 3.) gave birth to a son who was no ordinary child.  She also knew by the word of the shepherds and Joseph that 4.) the baby she bore was the promised Messiah (Luke 2:11) who would one day “save his people from their sins”(Matthew 1:21).  

Messiah: the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). 

Mary did not know very much, but “she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) and Mary proclaimed herself to be “the Lord’s servant” and vowed to fulfill God’s word in her life (Luke 1:38), and she did! 

What Do We Know? Romans 1:16-20, Hebrews 12:1-3

What do we know today about Jesus? We know far more now than Mary ever knew in her lifetime on this earth.  I should say that we all have the opportunity to know more than Mary ever knew about Jesus. We have the Bible.  Some of you actually read it.  A smaller portion of you actually study it, and a smaller portion of you still actually memorize it. 1.) We have the Bible and Mary did not!  We have the entire Old Testament verified in accuracy and age by the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 (excluding only the book of Esther).  These books include over 300 prophecies concerning the Messiah that have all been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. See detail at: https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/old-testament-prophecies.html

Additional prophesies concerning world events, kingdoms and rulers, and science and technology have also come to pass. 

We have the New Testament which includes eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection by His disciples (apostles) Matthew and John.  We also have in it written    accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection by early missionaries Mark and Luke, the history of the first church and many letters written by the apostle Paul.  We also have two letters from Jesus’ disciple (apostle) Peter, four from John (disciple/ apostle) and one letter from His brother James. In the Bible we have many witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  There is no record in the Bible that Mary ever saw Jesus in His resurrected body.  She, like us, would have heard from many who witnessed His resurrection and believed on faith.  We have these historical written accounts in the Bible. Mary, like the apostles and the many who have believed in the gospel, left this earth with faith in the Resurrected Christ. Jesus made both them and Mary new. The child that she delivered also delivered her from sin.  The Apostle Paul exclaimed that he was not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation (Romans 1:16-20).  God has revealed Himself clearly in both creation and His word so that no one has an excuse not to believe in Jesus.

Unlike Mary, we also know of the 2.) world wide spread of the Gospel (good news) of Christ and the many lives that He has changed throughout history.  Jesus has continued to make a life changing impact in billions of people who have believed on His name and follow His teachings.  This “cloud of witnesses” testifies to the truth of Christ and should help us “run the race” of faith in this life (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Christmas John 3:16

Lastly, 3.) The world knows about and celebrates Christmas every year! Now Mary likely remembered Jesus’ birthday every year, but she didn’t celebrate it like the world does today, and she certainly didn’t understand the eternal consequences of it until after He resurrected.  Jesus never told His disciples to remember His birthday.  He told us to remember his death (through communion: Luke 22:7-23, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) and His resurrection and ours through baptism: 

We were therefore buried with Jesus through baptism into death; in order that,just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may live a new life! Romans 6:4 

But we do remember His birthday every year although we’re off on the month (it was likely in August or early September). Christmas has become one of God’s great reminders to mankind that He is still reaching out in Love (John 3:16).  

No Jive John 3:17-21, John 1:1:12-14

No matter what unbelievers will try and make of it, Christmas always comes up Jesus!  The Heart of Christmas is 1.) not in the presents, but in His presence, 2.) not in romance, but in a relationship with Christ, 3.) not even in family, but in fellowship with God and eternal life with the family of God.  My Christmas message will not end in “jive” (what is deceitful or worthless).  Jesus is the reason for the season  and we must receive Christ as Lord to know His salvation.  Light has come into the world (John 3:19)… Mary knew it and we know it better!  Mankind is without excuse. Won’t you become a “child of God?” (John 1:12-14)

Fellowship Not Family (The Heart of Christmas #4)

ChristmasStockingsPastor Barry/ The Gathering:     The Heart of Christmas (Fellowship Not Family #4)          To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Sermon Springboard:  Home For The Holidays by Perry Como (composed by Robert Allen with lyrics by Al Stillman) Released on November 16,1954

Family 1 Timothy 5:8

If a secular survey was done as to what people think of the most when they hear the word “Christmas” it would undoubtedly be “family”.  No wonder that Perry Como’s song Home For The Holidays became an instant hit when it came out as a single record in 1954 and remains a favorite Christmas song in the present. Family is one of the very best and most important things in life. The Bible makes this plain in the creation account, where God makes a woman and a man, unites them as “one flesh” and blesses them with the exhortation to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:23, 24). When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, number five was to honor ones father and mother and it came with a promise of long life (Exodus 20:12). The Bible revisits the family theme in Deuteronomy 11:19 and Proverbs 22:6, where the Lord instructed His people to train up their children in the way of holiness and truth. The “family” message is also declared in Psalms when it says that “children are a heritage from the Lord and a great reward”(Psalm 127:3). Responsibility to family is also expressed in the apostle’s solemn warning that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). For all these reasons, we can see that there is a strong and inescapable biblical basis for loving ones family and placing them in high priority…but not the highest.

Family Perspective Mark 3:21, 31-35, Matthew 10:33-40, Luke 14:26-27, Matthew 19:29-30

Jesus has some tradition busting views on “family”. One time when Jesus was talking to a large crowd someone told him that his mother and brothers were waiting outside to see him. His family had come to get him because they said “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21)  Jesus did not go to them; instead he taught the crowd that “his family” were those who did the will of God.  From an eternal perspective this makes perfect sense.  All the members in our traditional family my not receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  In fact some may even be hostile to Christ and his followers.  If this is the case then how can we have true fellowship (meaningful friendship) with such family members?  Jesus said that the loyalty that he requires of one who follows him will bring divisions in families. (Matthew 10: 33-40)  Jesus even goes so far as to say that if we love father, mother, son or daughter more than him then we are not worthy to be his disciple.  In comparison to our love for him all others should be “hateworthy”! (Luke 14:26-27). If our parents or children should not follow Jesus, or even if they disown us for being Christians, we must still choose Jesus over them. It is in this sense that we are “hating” our family  members who reject the Lord or reject us because of the Lord.

Jesus did not say that “the church replaces the family system.” As a matter of fact, such an    interpretation of His words has been dangerously misapplied. A great deal of damage has been inflicted on spouses and children through over-commitment to church programs and activities. God values both the family and government institutions.  He in fact established them; however, when its members fail to honor Christ we must obey God rather than man. (Acts 5:29)  What Jesus did say is that our love for Him should be so great and so overpowering that it eclipses all other loves. Even the strongest and most compelling of our natural human loves ought to look like “hate” when compared with our love for Christ. In other words, the depth of our commitment to Him is revealed precisely in our willingness to     forsake even the very best things in life if called upon to do so for His sake.  In regards to our families, Jesus promised that if we leave them for his sake then we will receive “a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life”. (Matthew 19:29-20) 

Note: in regards to leaving families for the sake of following Christ it happens everyday throughout the world.  When a Muslim converts to Christianity he becomes dead to his family and is utterly rejected.  This is also true with many other religions.  On another note, some families are so dysfunctional that for the sake of healing and health one must break away.  As Christians, we of course should pray for our family members and seek to be witnesses of Christ to them.  This is our call to all mankind and especially to our family.

The Family Fellowship of God Acts 2:44-47, John 1:12-13,1 John 1:1-5

The heart of Christmas is not family it is fellowship with God and the eternal family that we have through Him.  The book of Acts tells the story of the early church and remains a recipe for the church family today. Those who believed were together (as a family).  They had all things in common (faith, doctrine, morals, ethics, hope), they took care of each other,    encouraged one another, and were generous and sincere in their faith and love.  As a result they were witnesses of Christ and people were getting saved daily!  The eternal family grew! 

Good, bad or indifferent, whatever your earthly family is your eternal family is better because of Christ in them.  Many of us are fortunate enough to have earthly family members who are also in our family of God, but rather that is true or not for you, no one stands in Christ alone. As a believer we are filled with the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18) and become children of God (John 1:12-13) and individual members (family) of the “body of Christ”(1 Corinthians 12:18-27) in which we all have a unique purpose. We are also each imparted with the ever growing fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), among them is that great Joy that the shepherds first knew at the announcement that Jesus was born! (Luke 2:13-20)  Salvation has come for anyone who will receive him! 

With our brother, the Apostle John, we can also proclaim Christ who has been from the  beginning (John 1:1-5) and has now come into our life. We who have fellowship with him also have fellowship with the eternal family of God. To make our joy complete we must share this message with others that they too would be apart of this forever family.  And this is the message that we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:1-5)  And this is the heart of Christmas!

Relationship Not Romance (The Heart Of Christmas #3)

ChristmasMistletoeKissPastor Barry/ The Gathering: Relationship Not Romance (The Heart of Christmas #3)      To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Springboard: That’s What Christmas Means To Me by Stevie Wonder (songwriters: Allen Story, Anna Gordy Gaye, George Gordy) 

Romance Jeremiah 17:9-10, Matthew 6:33-34

Like the famous song by Stevie Wonder, That’s What Christmas Means To Me,  romance is what Christmas means to many!  That emotional excitement or attraction that a person feels for    another is elevated with fire, snow and mistletoe!  This kind of romance is a popular topic in our culture. Music, movies, plays, and books capitalize upon our human fascination with romantic love and its seemingly endless expressions.

The Song of Solomon is a book filled with romantic demonstrations of love between a bride and groom. Since God included this book in the canon of His inspired Word, we can safely say that romance is acceptable and even applauded by our Creator in the context of a pure and committed marriage relationship; however, romance for the sake of romance can be destructive. Most romances begin with the delightful sense of “falling in love,” which can be intoxicating. The act of “falling in love” produces a chemical deluge in the brain similar to that experienced with drug use. The brain is awash in adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin (the feel-good chemicals), which cause us to want to return to the source of that feeling. Because of our brain’s response, romance can become an addiction.  Feasting on “emotional porn” ( the depiction of the emotionally sensational) such as romance novels, sexually themed TV shows and movies, pornography, and even “romantic” social media posts, sets us up for unrealistic expectations in our real-life relationships. 

Researchers estimate that the human brain can only sustain that intense “in love” feeling for a maximum of two years. Ideally, a couple has worked on deepening their love and commitment during that time so that, when the intense feelings of being “in romantic love” taper off, a deeper love takes its place. However, for those “addicted” to romance, this tapering-off signals that it is time to find another person who will induce the same euphoria. Some people diagnosed with “relationship addiction” may, in fact, be addicted to the feelings produced by “falling in love.” Thus, they attempt to recreate that feeling over and over again.

Romance can be either negative or positive depending upon whether we let those emotions rule our lives. When we are pursuing our feelings, we can get into moral trouble. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The popular saying “follow your heart” is terrible advice. When we follow the passions of our hearts, we are easily led into deception, sin, and regret. Instead of pursuing romance, we should pursue a relationship with God. He alone knows what we really need to be satisfied and He promises to give those things to us if we seek Him first (Matthew 6:33-34).

Relationship 2 Timothy 2:22, Romans 8:5-8, Psalm 121:1-8

Oh that youth would pursue God with the same time and energy that they pursue romance.  Just think of the troubles they could avoid!  Even those who are no longer youthful should take the Apostle Paul’s advice to the young man Timothy; that is to pursue godliness over youthful lust (AKA Romantic feeling). The Apostle goes on to tell his church in Rome the importance of such a discipline.  When a mind is set on what the flesh desires without the control of the Holy Spirit disaster is unavoidable (Romans 8:5-8)!  This is why one should pursue a relationship with God before any other human relationship (friendship, lover,    father, mother, sister, brother, employer, employee, etc.).  God knows us better than we know ourselves. When we put our relationship with God first every other relationship will be better!  His word will light our path through life:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105  We need the Lord in our lives more than we know.  He is where our help comes from and God knows we need it (Psalm 121:1-8)!

What Christmas Means To Him John 3:16-18, 6:48-64, Hebrews 11:6, Psalm 32:5

The best way to find the heart of Christmas is to discover the heart of God (John 3:16).  When all the glitter and twinkle is taken away from Christmas what remains is a feeding trough (a manger) in a stable.  In that trough is the food that God provided for every one of us animals. (Biologically, humans are classified as animals: Mammals/ Homo sapiens). Yes, I said animals and that is not only a scientifically correct term but an accurate term when we look at the declining critical thinking and morality of our species today.  What Christmas means to God is feeding time for any who would come and eat the spiritual food that He provided.   

Christ is that food (John 6:48) and He referred to Himself as such. In fact He is also our drink (John 6:55) and without that food and drink we will die in our sin and be lost forever.  We can eat all kinds of other food and drink all kinds of other drink, in all kinds of places but nothing else can ever sustain us.  No other relationship, no other person can feed us like Jesus. Most people would cringe at the thought of being referred to as food and drink for another, but Jesus embraced it (as illustrated in communion: Luke 22:19-20).  In fact it was His earthly mission to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). 

There is a requirement to eating at “the Lord’s table”.  1.) You must believe and receive Christ alone as your Lord (Master) and Savior (Hebrews 11:6, Romans 10:9-10).  2.) You must recognize that you are a beast without Christ and come humbly to Him in repentance and gratitude (Psalm 49:12, James 4:7-10, Psalm 32:5).  Are you hungry… Come and eat!

No Romance Matthew 7:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Make no mistake about it; the Heart of Christmas is no romance.  It is a relationship with God. The walk of faith with Christ is not just a “feel good experience”, although undoubtedly there will be such times.  In fact Jesus called it a narrow path that few take (Matthew 7:13-14). He promised persecution on that path (John 15:20) and even death to the “old self” (Galatians 2:20). Yet His food (a relationship with Him) promises to make us new and give us a new purpose of bringing others into relationship with Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Yes, we eat and then bring others to the manger and this is the heart of Christmas!

Presence Not Presents (The Heart of Christmas 2)

ChristmasChildPrayerPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church:  Presence Not Presents/ The Heart of Christmas 2  To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGCHURCH.COM

Sermon Springboard: Santa Baby by Eartha Kit

 Presents Matthew 6:19-24, 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19, Proverbs 23:4-5                                            Phil Springer and Joan Javits were being ironic and funny when they wrote Santa baby for Eartha Kit in 1953.  At any rate it became a Christmas holiday hit!  But do we know people like the material girl in the song? How material and superficial are you at Christmastime?  How material and superficial are you at anytime? 

There are many warnings in the Bible about giving in to greed and longing for riches. Jesus warned us against it; “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”(Luke 12:15). Jesus reminds us that one cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6 19-24). In contrast, Jesus became poor for our sake (2 Corinthians 8:9). He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43–45).  

Greed and a desire for riches are traps that bring ruin and destruction. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil(1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17-19).  In Ephesians 5:5, The Apostle Paul called a greedy person an idolater (a person who worships a false god) who had no inheritance in the kingdom of God.

It is the love of money, and not money itself, that is the problem. The love of money is a sin because it gets in the way of worshiping God. Jesus said it was very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:16-22). By instructing him to give up his money, Jesus pointed out the young man’s main problem: greed or a love of money. The man could not follow Christ because he was following money. His love of this world interfered with his love for God.

Greed refuses to be satisfied. More often than not, the more we get, the more we want. Money or wealth is not the problem. The problem is our attitude toward it. I have known people without much to be far more greedy than those who have plenty. A greedy poor man will do anything to be rich, while a greedy rich man will giveaway nothing to be free.  When we place our confidence in wealth or are consumed by a desire for more, we are failing to give God the glory and worship He deserves. We are to serve God, not waste our time trying to become rich (Proverbs 23:4-5).  If we are a Christian it is God’s kingdom we are to build and not our own—it is His will that is to be done and not ours (Matthew 6:9-10). 

If Christmas, or life for that matter, is all about presents (what you are getting or what you feel you are entitled too), then you are not experiencing the heart of Christmas or Christianity.

 Presence Luke 2:13-14, John 14:15-21, 25-27, Psalms 16:7-11                                                 The heart of Christmas is not presents but the presence of God with us.  When the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds the proclamation was “peace to those on whom God’s favor rests” (Luke 2 13-14).  God’s favor does not rest on everyone but only upon those who make Him Lord (Master).  

God’s presence can only be with one who is born again (John 3:3).  One of Jesus’ titles is “Immanuel,” which means “God with us”(Matthew 1:23).  When Jesus came into this world, He was truly, literally “God with us.” Even now God is with the believer because when Jesus went away He sent His Spirit to be with us (John 16:7) always.  He has not left us as      orphans ( John 14:15-21, 25-27).  He lives within us, teaches us all things, reminds us of everything He has said. He has filled the believer with His presence and peace.   Because God is with us: 1. We know that we will never be separated from His love (Romans 8:38-39). 2. God’s presence assures us that we can accomplish His will for us (1 Chronicles 22:17-19). 3. God’s presence overcomes our fear, worry, and dissatisfaction (Hebrews 13:5). 

John 5:11-12 tells us it is Jesus who indwells us: “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” This “life” is the presence of God within us.

A Psalm of David (Psalm 16:7-11) beautifully reflects the presence of God in the life of one who puts their hope in the Lord.  He is filled with joy in the presence of the Lord. Are you? 

The Heart of Christmas—The Heart of Life Romans 15:13                                               Have you ever been so full of junk food that you rejected a good meal, so full of liquid that you couldn’t eat, so full of yourself that you had no friend, so full of want that you couldn’t enjoy the simple and best pleasures of life?  If you are full of greed then you cannot be filled with God’s presence and the hope that accompanies it.  “Stuff” does not last, nor does anyone wish they had more of it on their death bed. The Heart of Christmas and the heart of living are found only in the presence of God with us.

…set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1b-4 

If you are full of “stuff” (or the constant driving desire for it) then don’t be like the rich young ruler who left Christ in search of more.  There is nothing more to be had than the presence of God in your life and the Hope of His salvation for your eternity.  Pray for forgiveness and allow God to transform your life as you allow Him to transform your heart and mind. Joy and peace is on the way for those who trust in the Lord.

Mary’s Song (Heart of Christmas 1)

Mary&BabyJesusPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church:  The Heart of Christmas 1  Mary’s Song                      To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGCHURCH.COM

Reading from Luke 1:26-38 

Confirmation  Luke 1:39-45, Isaiah 7:14                                                                                          When the angel “left her” (Luke 1:38b) there is no doubt that Mary gasped and said something like”did that really just happen?”  We must remember, Mary was no super Hero.  She was    ordinary just like you and me. So what is one to do when visited by an angel or confronted with a vision or calling from God?  After all there are good angels and bad angels (demons). In fact the scriptures say that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14 

Historically speaking “angels” have not always been so reliable regarding truth.  Muhammad’s revelation was an event described in Islam as taking place in 610 AD, during which the Islamic prophet was allegedly visited by the archangel Jabril (Gabriel), who revealed to him the beginnings of what would later become the Quran (ironic since the same angel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary).  The emergence of the Book of Mormon is also said to have been delivered by an angel on September 21, 1823. According to founder of the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni appeared to him with golden tablets (never revealed) and told him that “God had a work for [him] to do” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33). Long before either one of these religions began (Islam was founded 600 years after Christianity) the Apostle Paul would proclaim that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”(2 Corinthians 11:14). 

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! Galatians 1:8 

Mary did not simply take an angel’s word for it as Muhammad and Smith did.  She sought confirmation from God’s word as we should also do (John 8:32, 17:17, 2 Cor-inthians 10:5, 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16, 1 John 4:1).  1.  Mary confirmed what the angel Gabriel told her with scripture.  The angel had said to her that “The Lord God will give him (Jesus) the throne of his father David and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” As any good Jew, Mary knew the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.  She knew that God had promised a   Messiah who would save his people and that he would come one day through the genealogical line of David.  Mary and Joseph were both in that lineage.  She likely also knew the Bible passage from Isaiah 7:14 which said that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.

Mary also knew that Jewish law said that a matter must be established by two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15b). a. Mary was the witness of an angelic visitation which she saw and heard, b. she also knew that what the angel said was biblically accurate, but she needed a third witness to establish the absolute truth of the angel.   2. Mary confirmed what the angel Gabriel told her by testing his word. She traveled to Elizabeth’s house to see if she was pregnant as the angel had said (Luke 1:39-45). c. Not only did Mary see that Elizabeth was pregnant but her baby d. leaped within her and e. Elizabeth proclaimed “blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  God had confirmed Mary’s word from the angel well over what the law required and the baby Jesus growing within her continued that confirmation. 

Mary’s Song Luke 1:46-56,6:43-45, 14:11, Romans 10:9-10                                                     This is the song or poem that Mary wrote following the greeting that she received from  Elizabeth, her cousin, when she went to visit her. 

Mary was a girl of only 15-16 years old and engaged to be married. She was now suddenly a single unwed mother in a religion and culture where that meant ostracism or death. Cruel Romans occupied her land and a ruthless heathen king ruled the region. Mary staying with her cousin for three months (Luke 1:56) also says a lot about her family dynamics. Likely they had given the same initial reaction that Joseph gave to her when she told him about the news of her pregnancy (Matthew 1:19). Regardless of all these things Mary is filled with Thanksgiving!  We too can learn from Mary to give praise as we face difficulties and trials in a fallen world. Here are three things we can learn from Mary:

1. Mary models a mind filled with the Scriptures.                                                           Mary expresses her knowledge of the Psalms, the prophets and Hannah’s song (God granted Hanna a child :1 Samuel 2: 2- l0). Mary was well trained in the scriptures from her childhood.  Out of the abundance of her heart, she spoke, ( Luke 6:45) her mouth was filled with the language of Scripture. Whatever books we love, whatever books we study, the Bible should be our book of books. Mary was full of God’s word…what are you full of?

2. Mary models a heart of humility.                                                                                     Mary acknowledges herself as a sinner and therefore her need of a Savior. Mary also refers to herself a servant of the Lord and never expresses pride in her position (Luke 14:11).

3. Mary models an attitude of thoughtfulness and thankfulness.                              True thankfulness is always a matter of faith over circumstance. Mary models an attitude of gratitude. This is to be our response in all circumstances too (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Mary recalled God’s past dealings with his people and ascribed it to her faith in him for the future. Bible history is not just a story to Mary it is her story! Mary believes and Mary is confessing her faith in this song.  Let us declare our faith as she did too! (Romans 10:9-10) 

What Ever Happened to Mary? Acts 1:12-14, 2:1-4, John 3:3,6-7                                           By all scriptural accounts, Mary never saw the resurrected Jesus. The last we read about Mary in the Bible is in Acts 1:14.  She was there on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-5) and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Church legend says that she lived in the house of John until she died (John 19:27). There is no Biblical record of Mary ascending into heaven (she was ordinary).

Although Mary was chosen by God for a unique assignment, she had to receive salvation by faith in her Son just as we all do (Romans 3:23Ephesians 2:8–9Acts 4:12). Mary is now in heaven with all believers who have died in Christ, not because she gave birth to Jesus but because she trusted in His shed blood as payment for her sin                     (1 Thessalonians 5:9102 Timothy 2:11).  We all must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Mary’s song, or the Christmas story for that matter, won’t make any difference to you unless you believe what Mary said. Her song says that Jesus is Messiah, the Savior of the world. To believe on Him is to have eternal fellowship with Him.  Mary believed… Do you?